We arrived in Moscow early yesterday morning and because our hotel room would not be ready until 2.00 pm, we were given a whirlwind tour of the city highlights. It seemed that we went to a hundred places in a very short time and I can’t remember everything hat we saw other than the KGB Headquarters, the stadium of the 1980 Olympics and a great number of memorials to outstanding people in Russian history. (The Russians are very good at building memorials to their ‘stand-out’ citizens).
One place that I clearly remember was a visit to Red Square. It is the iconic centre of Moscow and it was an amazing experience to be in this place. We approached it through an arch next to the Museum of History. The square is huge – 400 metres long and about 150 metres wide. It is all cobble-stoned. As we walked in, the impressive red- bricked history museum was behind us. To our right was a 19th century ornate building that contained a very upmarket shopping mall of three stories. To our right was the high red wall of the Kremlin and half way along it was Lenin’s tomb. At the far end were the multi coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral. This is the real image that we know of Moscow. It was initially to be demolished by Stalin but apparently, he was persuaded by an influential architect to let it exist. We spent some time St Basil’s, which is now a museum, and listening to a male choir who were singing in one of the chapels.
As we walked the length of the square it was easy to imagine those pictures of Russian military parades with goose-stepping soldiers and columns of military equipment including tanks and rocket launchers that took place in the square. We could also visualise the dignitaries seated on the top of Lenin’s tomb taking the salute.
Although it was raining, we visited the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which is an exact copy of the building that the Soviets pulled down. It seems that while the cost of the soviet period on its citizens was horrendous, another cost is the one of rebuilding a large number of churches and historic buildings across Russia that they destroyed.
We checked in to our hotel by about 3.00 pm and decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood before dinner. Our hotel is located just to the south of the city. This area has a very Parisian feel to it. In fact, most of the Moscow that we have seen is the same. There are lots of wide streets a lot of traffic as well. Three are very few extremely old buildings as the locals burnt most of the city to prevent Napoleon capturing them. Therefore most of the streetscapes only date from the early 1800’s. There are obviously a large number of Soviet era buildings here but this city doesn’t look to be as run down and inn need of repair as the other Russian cities that we have seen.
In our little neighborhood, we found a park with a statue to Mother Russia, a Metro station, a theatre and a church which seemed ti be dedicated to the Archangel Gabriel. We also came across a restaurant with a pond that included a real Venetian gondola. We assume that you could go for a romantic cruise around the pond between courses.
Dinner was out our hotel and we had a chat to a few other Australians in a group leaving for St Petersburg late at night. One of them turned out to be Terry Grieg who I worked with at one of my clients; Woodbine Associates. What a coincidence!